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Library Thriving Despite Challenges

Financial woes had forced the library to cut two full-time librarians and close on Sundays in the past year. Library director gives an update on how the library is operating despite these challenges.

Since financial woes forced the to at the start of the year the library has had to restructure to make up for the shortage, still operating efficiently and offering the same services it always has.

Library director Mimi Hui says when times are tough things have to be done differently and they are making it work. Increase in health care costs and lack of increase to the library’s budget had led to the staff cuts this past January.

Hui says the team has had to take on more responsibilities and she has restructured things, making things work by scheduling the team to back cover the shortage in staff. The library has always made due with what it is given to them, she says.

Recently the library hired two part-time staff members who now serve in the reference department where she said the need was the largest.  One of the new part-timers also doubles as teen librarian. Unlike full-time staff members, the library does not pay into the health insurance for the part-time staff members. Hui said the cost of health insurance is so high it could almost amount to a full-time salary.

The library also brought in two college interns over the summer who have helped lead the as part of the summer reading program. She said the interns earned a small stipend to cover their travel costs.

Hui said the circulation department also took a hit as the senior library assistant position had been eliminated. She’s had to reallocate hours and bring in someone per diem during high traffic hours to fill in gaps but is still feeling the shortage in staff.

Hui points out that the library never really was fully staffed to begin with but they make due and continue to learn. She sees challenges like these as a growth process.

Hui says it is also likely the library won’t be reopening on Sundays in the near future. Last fall the board made the decision to close the library on Sundays to save on costs due to increases in health insurance. 

Hui said the loss of the four hours on that day has affected circulation numbers as it was known to be a high circulation day. She also says the book drop box is full to capacity on Mondays as a result, especially over the summer as the library does not open on Saturdays.

In recent months the library has also seen an increase in circulation, some of which is attributed to the three-month closure of the neighboring Lodi library. As part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System, cardholders can use their card at other BCCLS locations. Heights being in close proximity to Lodi took on many patrons from this community as well.

Hui pointed out that the library offers many services aside from its circulation, reference and the programs it presents. She says the library is also a resource for the community of which many members are trying to get back on their own feet as they have been affected by the economy. The library’s technology is available to patrons to use in their job search.

The library is also a social place, a community room where relationships are made among people, she says.

Hui relays a quote she said she previously heard. “Libraries build good communities and good communities build good libraries.”

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